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  • Well, I think it’s finally hit me. Tomorrow, I will drive my mother to the hospital, and she will undergo a hysterectomy.

    100 years ago, she would have died in childbirth with me. She has fibroids, and after two pregnancies (and subsequent c-sections) and, now, two almost-grown kids, the fibroids are too big and too threatening, and so she is having a hysterectomy.

    I’ve been slowly, methodically, solemnly counting down the days until her surgery. We both have. She and I have been working together, and closely, making sure we have all the logistics of the farm and the pets and my father planned out and taken care of before tomorrow and for the duration of time she is projected to be off her feet in recovery. I assumed my worry and furrowed brow was strictly due to the typical fears and unknowns of any surgery, but finally just now, as I stood dish-washing tonight—as the soapy bubbles went gliding across my hands and I listened to the trickle of the water as it gently fell into the already half-full copper sink, I realize there’s a bit more to it.

    Let me first say that I am lucky enough to have some of the best friends, family, and teachers in the entire world, some of whom also happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. They, in particular, have taught me that to be and identify as a woman or a man is indeed something innate, but not always of biological origin, just as it is in love and what it means to love someone that may or may not be the same or different than yourself. They have shown me better than to think or feel my mother will be losing something that will make her less of a woman tomorrow than she is today.

    However, I will admit, the very primitive thought of my mother losing some sort of womanly essence after her surgery crossed my mind for a moment, and I quickly became concerned she might think the same of herself. I do know better, though, and I hope she does, too.

    I am a woman, and there’s nothing else I’d rather be. My mom brought my sister and I up with the understanding that whatever residuals womanhood might bring—mood swings, overflowing emotions, or general discomfort—we were never to use it as an excuse to behave any differently. Quite simply, we were told to “suck it up,” and I am forever grateful for that decree, which came long before I had any idea what womanhood actually entailed, besides getting to wear perfume and red lipstick and pretty silk dresses that twirled. Whether or not my mom intended it to work out this way, I have not only learned to embrace whatever womanhood bestows, but also to keep it sacred.

    When men try to make some brash comment about women being indecisive or “PMS-ing” or inconveniently emotional, as men often do (and think of themselves quite highly for such acute observations), I can either enlighten them (which is rarely worth a woman’s time, as they then confuse “right” with being “self-righteous”) or I can turn away, knowing quite well, that innately, I can think and feel things they can’t. I can do things they can’t. I have to go through things they don’t, and I can do it ALL without them knowing or even caring. I can look at this two ways: I can think less of men for it, as many (but not all) men tend to think less of women for menstruating in the first place, or I can take great satisfaction knowing I have a powerful secret and anything they can do, I can do, too…plus more. Through my mother’s mothering, I have chosen the latter, and it has served me quite well. My mother taught me that by outwardly casting certain realities of womanhood aside (also known as “sucking it up”), I not only know I can hold my own next to any man, but he knows it, too.

    But in my heart, I can still be grateful I am nothing like him at all. Genders are equal, but different, and this is a fact I continually (and sometimes fiercely) defend and debate with both male professors and male peers during the course of my public and global health PhD studies. I am strong, I am tough, I am brave, and I am my mother’s daughter. I am my great-grandmother’s great-granddaughter: A Cherokee Warrior Woman, who could beat the boys on horses with her own baby tightly swaddled to her back, as both her and mother earth can give life and (or) nurture life and always make it grow. No man can do that. No man will ever be able to do that. But a woman, whether born that way biologically or become that way instinctively will always have that power.

    So tomorrow will be a woman’s day. Just me and my mom. A right of passage. A goodbye and a hello. For my mother. I feel honored I get to be there. I will look to her for bravery and strength, as I always have. I will look to her for guidance, knowing one day, I may go through the same thing, but also knowing, I will have been taught how.

    Perhaps getting sentimental over her mother’s hysterectomy is also a sure sign of being a woman. I take the risk of any not-a-woman reader rolling his eyes and making more brash comments as to the content of this story in hopes that my mom will read this and know she’s the strongest woman I have ever known, and will be, even more so, after tomorrow’s surgery is complete. I thank her for that, for I would not have come to be, had it not been for the differences God created between men and women, and for my mother’s sacred views on knowing she could be tough, beat the boys, AND be a woman and a mother—and teaching me just that—all at the same time. I’m thankful for the months I got to spend inside her and I’m thankful for the years I get to spend by her side. Tomorrow, as I also say goodbye and hello, as she goes from the best ordinary extraordinary woman to a heroic mother matriarch, I will be by her side and whisper:

    We Are Women, Hear Us Roar.

    I love you, Mom.
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